“A hate crime is a criminal offence committed against a person or property which is motivated by hate/bias or prejudice based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, color, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor,” according to the Ottawa Police website, which on April 11 added the option of reporting hate crimes to its already large assortment of online crime tips.
“The impact of such crimes is far reaching, extending beyond the physical and emotional trauma to the victim, to encompass other members of the groups and broader community,” according to the Ontario Policing Standards. “Such crimes can heighten the isolation and vulnerability of the victim’s group and cause stress for all members of the community. If unchecked, these crimes can result in an escalation in social tensions between different groups that can destroy communities, thereby furthering the aims and objectives of those in our society who promote hatred and intolerance.”
What about graffiti? It turns out the Ottawa police has adopted Marlon Brando’s Sakini’s philosophy in the 1956 film Teahouse of the August Moon: “Pornography, question of geography.” They just substituted hate for forbidden love and came up with this instructive bit:
“Motivated graffiti can be considered a hate crime if it is: found in or near a religious institution or an affiliated community recreation area; or on commercial property that is affiliated with a community group; or on personal property.”
“Our community partners have requested this and I’m pleased to see it being implemented,” Police Chief Charles Bordeleau said in a press release marking the new addition. “This will provide an alternative means of access to police services and help to eliminate these kinds of crimes in our communities.”
Except that on Wednesday this week, The Texas Tribune ran a story claiming that a new Texas hate crime law has so far resulted in few convictions and “lots of disappointment” for victims. The law lets prosecutors add time behind bars to hate crime offenders, provided the authorities can prove the perpetrator intentionally acted out of bias toward the victim’s race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender or sexual preference. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Rodney Ellis, declared that Texas had “sent a message that our state is not a safe haven for hate.”
Not really. According to the Tribune, from 2010 to 2015 there were 981 cases reported to Texas police departments as hate crimes, yielding only five hate crime convictions. This is largely because while it is possible to establish beyond reasonable doubt a defendant’s actions, doing the same regarding their feelings and intents is not easy. The Hate Crime “enhancement” as it is known among US prosecutors, is more a way for politicians to look caring and effective than for “hating” criminals to get tougher punishments than criminals whose hearts are pure as the driven snow.